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How restaurants can use email marketing

Nothing is more enticing than a crisp coupon to your favorite business. The idea that you can get your favorite items for less can motivate any customer to take action. The same applies to restaurant deals. One mouthwatering deal sent directly to a customer can prompt them to place an order.

What’s a guaranteed way to reach your customers? Email marketing.

Restaurant email marketing programs are a proven method of building customer loyalty. A well-timed email can bring in new diners and remind recent diners to return. Email marketing is worth the investment. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $36. With a strong email marketing campaign you can sit back and watch your ROI flow in.

How can restaurants use email marketing?

There are hundreds of ways to market a restaurant, but email marketing has proven to be successful. Why? Because you can send specific messages and offerings to specific customers, personalizing the marketing experience. Getting diners’ emails allows you to communicate with people who are familiar with your brand and who are interested in continuing to dine with you. Sending an email reminds a customer of your offerings and encourages them to place another order.

What type of content should you feature in your restaurant’s emails? Here are some places to start:

  • Newsletter: Send out a monthly newsletter featuring all your offerings for the month, including any holidays, events or days you will be closed.
  • New menu: If you launch a new menu let your customers know in an email.
  • Promotions: Include limited-time promotions in your emails where customers will get a deal if they show the email or use a code and check out.
  • Special hours: Send out an email whenever you change your hours or offerings to keep customers informed.
  • Events: Let your customers know what events you have planned and how they can sign up.
  • Contests: Encourage diners to get involved with your brand by running contests with real (edible) prizes.
  • Birthday: Collect customers’ birthdays when you get their email addresses so you can send them a special birthday message with an exclusive deal.
  • Feedback: Invite your customers to share feedback about their experience at your restaurant.

These days, the average consumer is getting dozens of emails from businesses every day. While emails allow you to reach customers on their devices whenever you like, you have to be careful about how frequently you communicate. As a restaurant, it’s best practice to send only one email a week. You can even make your communication monthly if you are running a newsletter.

Successful email marketers are acutely aware of the 80/20 rule: roughly 80% of customer actions (opens, clicks, orders, etc.) come from roughly 20% of your customer subscribers. Not even the most influential brands expect a 100% open rate, let alone a high click through rate. 

The average email open rate in the restaurant industry is 20.26%, so don’t expect every subscribed customer to be engaged. However, even if a diner doesn’t open your email, receiving messages from your restaurant increases brand awareness. 

Drive traffic to your restaurant website

Email marketing is just one ingredient in crafting the perfect online marketing strategy. All elements of your digital marketing strategy should work together. Think of your marketing channels as a web – all intertwined to encourage diners to place an order. 

You should link to your restaurant’s website, social media profiles and online ordering platform in your emails. Place an email signup form on your website to encourage curious customers to become subscribers. You can even offer a promotion to incentivize diners to enter their emails on your website.

Check out this website pop up that incentives customers to sign up for an email newsletter:

Increasing your restaurant’s online presence helps your restaurant stay relevant in the modern world. Your restaurant’s website should showcase your brand while giving a clear avenue for action. 
Don’t have an online ordering platform? Try Direct, a commission-free online ordering platform that can be custom branded for your restaurant. Including an online ordering link in your digital marketing materials allows you to convert curious online visitors to paying customers.

Create a commission-free, customized online ordering site with Direct.

How to start a successful restaurant email marketing program

Setting up email marketing does not have to be complicated. Check out our guide to affordable digital marketing tools for more tips on how to create engaging content. 

We’ve broken down three simple steps you can take to get your first email campaign off the ground.

Choose your software

First, you need to choose an email service provider. Conveniently, most email marketing services offer a free trial period, so spend some time testing platforms before spending a dime.

Your restaurant is unique, and your emails should be as well. Look for a platform that allows for easy customization and lets you “drag and drop” elements to create the perfect template. 

Email solutions should also provide reports showing how many people subscribe, unsubscribe and forward your emails onto friends, so you can evaluate the success of your campaigns. The best email marketing softwares also gives you the ability to segment your subscriber list. That way you can send out specifically targeted emails to first-time diners, regular customers and everyone in between.

A few popular services are MailChimp, YesMail and ExpressPigeon.

Collect customer emails

Once you have an email solution set up, it’s time to collect customer email addresses for your restaurant email marketing campaign. Add new subscribers by placing opt-in links on your website and social media feeds encouraging people to subscribe for deals and regular updates. You can also post QR codes around your restaurant or at the bottom of your take out menu for an easy avenue to sign up.

Take advantage of email forwarding, the digital version of word-of-mouth, by creating incentives to pass along your emails, such as a free appetizer if a customer refers to a friend. Offline, ask customers to provide their email address on comment and response cards or place a fishbowl on your counter to collect signups slips and business cards.

Keep track of how you get customers’ emails so that you can segment your audience. Market segmentation is the process of dividing your customers into groups based on shared characteristics. Segmenting your audience can help make sure your emails resonate with those they are targeting. Segmenting your audience based on factors like where they order (online or in-person), engagement (how often they click on your emails) or loyalty (how often they order) allows you to curate more relevant content so you get better open and click rates.

Craft your content

As the heart of your email campaign, your email content needs to be engaging and informative. Use a consistent layout to keep your planning time to a minimum and make your emails easier for customers to read.

Personalize your emails as much as possible. If you have multiple restaurant locations, segment your subscribers into lists and tailor emails by location. Use software that can insert first names into each separate email, and send customers special emails, such as their birthday. The more personalized you can be with emails, the less likely they are to end up in the trash.

You can also automate email streams with software like ActiveCampaign to map out what emails you want to send in a particular order. This way you can batch email content in a chronological order so that none of your customers miss out on your offerings – no matter when they subscribe.

It’s good practice to keep emails short and sweet. The average person only spends 10 seconds looking at an email, so you want to design your email to quickly catch the attention of diners. It starts with an attention grabbing subject line. Your subject line should hint at the content within your email, intriguing readers to learn more. Organize your email content with the most urgent information at the top. All important and eye-catching information should fit on users’ screen before they scroll.

Example restaurant email marketing campaigns.

Last but no least, consider using the following restaurant promotion ideas a recurring themes in your emails:

  • Deals and daily specials
  • Upcoming events
  • Menu changes
  • “Instagram of the Week” – highlight your food in action by including a customer-submitted photo from Instagram
  • “Tweet of the Week” – recognize your active Twitter followers by calling out a positive or humorous Tweet mentioning your restaurant
  • Customer reviews

Think of your emails as a small part of your digital presence. Make sure you plug your restaurant’s online ordering site, website and social media platforms in all your emails to remind customers of where they can find out more about your business. Giving channels for customers to learn more about your restaurant helps ensure that their journey with your restaurant continues.

Upgrade your marketing strategy with Grubhub

Taking your marketing strategy to the next level is a lot easier with a dedicated partner by your side. That’s where Grubhub comes in. At Grubhub, we are dedicated to helping you grow your digital presence by offering tools like Marketplace, promotions, POS integrations and Direct.

Direct is a commission-free online ordering platform available to all Grubhub partners. With Direct, you own your customers’ data. That can mean their emails as well. You can leverage this customer data to increase customer loyalty, driving your bottom line.

Ready to increase your digital reach and gain more customers? Partner with Grubhub today.

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